Behind the Hillary “Scandal”



I was wondering why The New York Times had joined the horde of media critics snapping at Hillary Clinton’s heels. After all, I expect Fox News, the New York Post and their ilk to add “scandal” after every mention of Hillary’s name, but the Times?

Nicknamed “The Gray Lady” because of its austere disregard for the sensationalist tricks of the trade, The New York Times is venerated as a national “newspaper of record.”  I have always regarded the Times as an extremely reliable source.

But time and again, recently, the Gray Lady was caught with her foot in her mouth when it came to those Hillary “scandals” that the popular media tut-tut about.

There was the story about the Justice Department supposedly investigating Hillary, for example. That  had to be retracted. Twice.

It was so riddled with inaccuracies and sheer fiction that even after a comprehensive retraction was published, an unprecedented second retraction had to be issued to correct the details.

I’m sure you’re aware of the relentless flood of negative press concerning Hillary’s use of her private server for official communications when she was secretary of state. Although she only did what others in her job had done, you would think she had committed some crime and was headed for Guantanamo. Of course, this is the same as all the other Hillary “scandals” – overblown right-wing propaganda.

As Rachel Maddow observed recently, everything Hillary does is a scandal as far as the National Press Corps is concerned. And Rachel did not exempt the Times.

The Times’ disregard for the Clintons was not restricted to stories about the email “scandal.” One reporter sniffed that Bill Clinton was looking “frail” and older than his 68 years, and the Times magazine published an unflattering (some people called it creepy) portrait of Hillary on its cover (above).

To media observers, it was beginning to look fishy.  As New York University professor Jay Rosen wrote on Twitter:

I have resisted this conclusion over the years, but after today’s events it’s fair to say the Times has a problem covering Hillary Clinton. 

And David Brock, founder of Media Matters, declares in a new book that the Times has earned “a special place in hell” with its biased treatment of the Clinton campaign.

But it might not be the Times that’s out to get Hillary after all. It could be just one staffer – the newspaper’s Washington bureau chief, a journalist named Carolyn Ryan.

I just learned from the Daily Kos that the Times has reassigned Ryan. And, according to that report,  the move is in response to the numerous complaints about her bureau’s reporting.

The Times said the move is just organizational, and Ryan will continue to concentrate on covering the 2016 campaigns. But I wonder how that will play out. Brock quoted Ryan as saying “the Clintons just lie” to explain her arbitrary treatment of a statement from Hillary’s campaign. So it looks as if she had some kind of grudge against Hillary.

Even if it is Ryan who has been behind some of the Times’ assault on Hillary, moving her won’t stop the media crusade. It’s what so much of the media do these days. Tear down the good guys and build up fakers and rogues.

My personal hope is that the Gray Lady will back out of the lynch mob. American readers should have learned by now to “consider the source” when the mud flies. And it would be said indeed to see a trusted source contaminated.


The Power of Palin


To you and me – and Tina Fey – Sarah Palin is a joke. I am amazed that she is still around, chattering mindlessly and uttering outrageously bigoted opinions – a blast from civilization’s distant past.

Listening to her incoherent rant at yesterday’s rally against the Iran deal, I understood only snatches of what she was trying to say.But what I understood was breathtakingly ugly (calling Black Lives Matter protesters “dogs” for example).

To me, Sarah Palin is totally un-American. But sadly, she is the grotesquely primitive face of a significant segment of the American population.

The Americans who hail Kim Davis as a Christian martyr, for example. The Americans who elect rogues and dunces to Congress. The Americans who are threatening to put the world’s destiny in Donald Trump’s hands.

It’s a frightening prospect, and it’s looking more and more possible.

Think about it. Trump and Palin – what a team!

Trump has been singing Palin’s praises recently, saying he would be delighted to have her in his cabinet. And Palin has been saying how much she would enjoy being Trump’s secretary of energy.

Don’t laugh – it could happen. We could be on the brink of a drill-baby-drill America, just as global oil pricess spiral into the abyss.

Palin is no laughing stock. She is a real threat to all that’s best in America. Indeed, according to Michael Keegan of People for the American Way, it’s Palin who triggered the current right-wing revolution.

Here’s Keegan’s take on the subject:

We are living in the post-Palin America. Sarah Palin entered the national spotlight on the Republican presidential ticket in 2008 and captured the hearts of those who would go on to form the Tea Party movement and become the overwhelmingly dominant faction of the GOP’s base.

It is this post-Palin America that gave us the Trump candidacy. And this post-Palin America could give us a Trump presidency.

I can hear you scoffing. Surely, these troglodytes are a small minority in America’s population, you are thinking. The vast majority of Americans are decent, evolved human beings who would never embrace the bigotry and stupidity of politicians like Palin and Trump.

And, yes, the right-wing revolutionaries are a minority. But they vote.

And, as long as two-thirds of the electorate don’t bother to go to the polls, the Trump-Palin movement represents a very real danger to America – and civilization – as we know and love it.

Click for Tina Fey’s Palin.

Click for Palin on CNN.

Click for more about yesterday’s rally.

Click for more on voter turnout.


Canada in Recession? Wow!

harper albertonia


palinI never thought I would live to see this headline: Canada in recession. But they say figures don’t lie and the figures show two consecutive quarters of negative growth by America’s northern neighbor. That is what economists the world over recoganize as a recession.

How do you manage to steer a country like Canada on to the rocks? This vast territory has an abundance of natural resources – forests, water, waving fields of grain and every mineral known to man – and only 36 million people to share its abundance.

You would think a blind squirrel could lead a country like that and not blunder into a recession. But somehow Prime Minister Stephen Harper couldn’t steer clear of the economic rocks.

Oddly, Harper’s disaster was triggered by his love affair with one of Canada’s abundant natural resources – oil.

The male equivalent of America’s Sarah Palin, the Canadian prime minister bet all his chips on a drill-baby-drill policy, expecting China to provide a never-ending market.

So when oil prices plummeted and the Chinese economy slowed, Canada got hit hard.

Of course there’s more to it than that. Harper is a conservative and you know how conservatives think. They insist they can ensure prosperity for a country as a whole by keeping its fat cats purring contentedly. Time and again, this trickle-down heresy is proved false. Yet time and again, conservatives trot it out as the panacea for all of a country’s ills.

For decades, Canadians elected progressive leaders and the country prospered. But I guess they got bored with persistent prosperity so they decided to try a conservative government for a change. Here’s what they got:

  • Slashed corporate income taxes
  • Free-trade deals
  •  Reduced regulations for businesses, leaving them to police themselves
  •  Anti-union policies

As we all should know by now, these policies never work. A recent report shows this government’s economic record is the worst in Canada’s post-war history.

Business investment and exports  slowed – and jobs vanished. Personal debt climbed as wages stagnated. Income inequality reared its ugly head. For the first time in my long memory, middle class misery became a fact of life in Canada.

But live and learn, I guess. Now that Canadians have reaped the bitter harvest of Harper’s conservative policies, I expect they’ll send him packing in October’s elections.

Click for the news story.

Click for the report.


Decline of the Lapdog Press

old photo


I haven’t read the Toronto Star in decades and I imagine it must have changed since my days as its Labor reporter.

When I got that job 55 years ago, the Star was known as a fearless defender of the downtrodden. It was also the bare-knuckle champion of the working class. The newspaper’s editors made no bones about it:  Unions mattered.

The strikes that occurred periodically during construction of Toronto’s subway system were front-page news. And  the internal politics of trade unions got full coverage. Labor leaders were treated as celebrities.

I think this posture was possible because the Star was not required to make a profit for shareholders. “Holy Joe” Atrkinson, a famous former editor, had left an endowment that freed it from such financial constraints.

Without fear of losing advertising, the newspaper could do what newspapers are supposed to do (as Finley Peter Dunne’s fictional bartender, Mr. Dooley, famously put it) – “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Its brash independence gave the Star an authentic personality that the competition could not match. And this authenticity attracted a rapidly growing circulation.

As its circulation grew so did its advertising. Ironically, the Star became very, very profitable.

When I moved to Florida, I witnessed the same phenomenon in the St. Petersburg Times. Also funded by an endowment, it stubbornly refuses to pander to advertisers or politicians.

The robust survival of the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) tells me that it wasn’t television that killed so many newspapers. It wasn’t the Internet and the rise of social media. It was the loss of the independent spirit that the old Star had and the Times still has.

As corporations swallowed them up one by one, America’s newspapers faded into irrelevance, and  their readers turned into TV viewers. Then, as the corporations bought out the broadcasting industry, TV stations also changed. They became champions of the elite, losing interest in the working class. As a result, trade unions have virtually vanished from the airwaves.

In a article this morning, I read about a study by the media watchdog FAIR, which found that, over an eight-month period last year, no representatives of labor unions appeared on any of the five main Sunday talk shows. Corporate CEOs, on the other hand, got a dozen opportunities to air their views.

When you hear labor unions being mentioned in today’s media, they are usually being smeared. The media’s scandalous treatment of teachers’ unions – and other unions in the public sector – is a glaring example of this distressing trend.

But, as the kids say, what goes around comes around. Television is also fading into irrelevance as a source of America’s news.

Now, viewers are turning into Internet surfers.

(Photo from the Star’s archives shows strikers on the march.)

Click for the Salon article.

Click for the Star’s history.

Click for the Times’ history.


Say Thanks to the Unions



As Americans celebrate Labor Day, I wonder how many spare a thought for those much-criticized trade unions that made the holiday possible. I suspect hardly anybody – except politicians like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and the diehard union members attending their rallies. (Biden’s Detroit rally pictured above).

It was organized labor, with all its shortcomings, that gave us such benefits as weekends, overtime pay, employee health insurance, pension plans and bargaining rights. Without the unions, American workers would be like those pathetic laborers in foreign lands who are stealing their jobs.

Ironically, as organized labor won an increasingly good life for America’s workers, the unions lost supporters. The beneficiaries of organized labor’s battles looked down on the movement as they climbed the social ladder. I’m sure you’ve heard this song:

The working class can kiss my a**. I’ve got the foreman’s job at last.

It’s how people are. Ungrateful and short-sighted.

The support that America’s white working class gives Republicans  is a glaring example of this human failing. Anyone with half a brain must realize by now that Republicans are the party of Big Business.  Especially since Ronald Reagan, the party has unapologetically supported corporate tax cuts; promoted trade deals that outsource jobs to low-wage countries, opposed raising the minimum wage and attacked the social safety net.

And they have waged a relentless war against organized labor. It’s the white-skinned, blue-collar voter who forms the core of the Republican base. Yet it’s the Democratic Party, traditionally financed by the unions, that has fought through the years for those same workers’ rights.

Of course the Republicans – ever since Richard Nixon – have used wedge issues such as race prejudice, abortion and bigotry of all kinds to turn working class voters against each other. (Donald Trump’s candidacy is the apotheosis of these tawdry tactics.)

Meanwhile, using sophitricated pscyhological technicuues and slick public relations campaigns, the deep-pocketed Republicans have managed to blame the Democrats for the gridlock they themselves have caused in Congress.

 Surely, American workers will not forever be duped by the professional tricksters on the Republican Party’s payroll? Surely they will some day recognize who is wearing the white hats? Could that day come as soon as next November?

How to Ruin a TV Channel



I’m convinced it’s not just Congress that’s gone nuts, it’s the entire political and business world. No, this is not another Donald Trump blog. This time it’s TV I’m railing against. More specifically cable TV. And most specifically MSNBC-TV.

The geniuses who run MSNBC seem determined to drive me away. First, they sack Ed. Then they demote Al Sharpton to the weekend wasteland. And this morning I learn from Salon. com that they’re ditching Jose Diaz-Balart to expand Morning Joe to four hours.

Four hours!

I’ve had root canals that took less time- and were a lot less agonizing.

According to Salon, “Morning Joe” is a favorite with the Washington in-crowd. While the rest of America watches network television or tweets and texts back and forth, the political “elite” reportedly skip their morning workouts to feast on Mika Brzezinski’s legs and Joe Scarborough’s smarminess.

But I know I’m not alone in my horror at the prospect of enduring Joe  and Mika all morning. Anyone (except the Washington “elite”) who has the mornings off – retired folks and the bedridden for example – must be desperately looking around for something else on TV to while away the hours.

Don’t get me wrong, Mika. I like your legs OK (shown above in Vanity Fair photo with Joe). It’s that Joe Scarborough I can’t stand. A former Republican congressman from north Florida,. Joe is one of those self satisfied, good ole boys that abound in the Sunshine State. To borrow a comment from Salon, Joe “has never met a billionaire CEO he couldn’t venerate or a warmongering pundit he couldn’t toast.”

(It’s Mika that Sandra can’t stand. She thinks Mika’s platinum hair and coy demeanor are unbecoming in a 48-year-old mother of two daughters.)

You probably know MSNBC is revamping its lineup because hardly anyone watches the channel. But if they’d come to me for advice, I could have told them why.

For one thing, nobody who watches Al Sharpton is going to hang around for “Lockup Raw.”

Most annoying of all, one show after another rehashes exactly the same”news” all day long and through most of the night (until “Lockup Raw”). Last night, for example, Rachel Maddow rebroadcast Andrea Mitchell’s interview with Hillary Clinton and then brought Andrea on to tell her what a great interview it was. Luckily, I was able to find some Alka Seltzer in the kitchen.

Of couse, MSNBC did not come to me for advice. Instead, they’re abandoning the channel’s “liberal” flavor and justly acclaimed diversity to focus on “hard news” delivered by the same breed of white-bread talking heads that viewers see on mainstream TV. And since there’s only so much “news” in a day, I guess they will go on repeating the same stuff hour after hour – just as they do now.

Doesn’t that make you sigh for the long-lost days of Keith Olbermann?

Click for the article.


Bernie is Right – Again

bernieI wonder why Bernie Sanders needs to point out the glaring aberrations in American society. They seem so self evident to me. And evidently to the thousands who flock to his political rallies. So why do they still need to be pointed out?

Why, for example, does Bernie – or anyone – need to tell Americans that the pharmaceutical companies are robbing us?

Are too many Americans stubbornly refusing to recognize the truth? Or are they too absorbed in their daily lives to notice how they’re being swindled?

Of course in a country of more than 300 million people, it could be that individuals feel powerless. So why should they worry about things they can’t change?

But in a democratic society like this, if enough individuals get together, change is achievable. It’s like those tiny ants that you see carrying a big chunk of chicken (or whatever) across your driveway.

Among his demands for reform, Senator Sanders is calling on Congress to allow Medicare to bargain on bulk purchases from drug companies. You might think Medicare can insist on discounts just like any other big buyer, but Congress actually passed a law banning Medicare from using such standard negotiating tactics.

Why? The pharmaceutical industry lobbyists greased the politicians’ palms and twisted their arms as usual.

Here’s how the deal is went down, according to a group called the Campaign for America’s Future:

When the Bush administration put together the prescription drug bill in 2002, it invited lobbyists in to help draft the bill. As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson detail the story in their book “Off Center,” the drug industry contributed nearly $30 million in the 2002 election cycle, three-fourths to Republicans who controlled the White House and the Congress. In 2003, the drug industry spent more than $100 million on federal lobbying.

With that kind of Congress, it’s no wonder Americans pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world – even though it’s our taxes that fund much of the research that developed the drugs.

Sanders says one in five Americans don’t fill a prescription because they can’t afford to – and that means people are dying while the drug companies rake in huge profits.

As Sanders noted, Americans spend about 40 percent more on a prescription than Canadians… nearly five times more than people in Denmark.

And it seems the scam gets worse when the government foots the bill.

Here’s a personal example:

I’m a diabetic and I take insulin injections twice a day. A bottle of insulin used to cost about $30 just about anywhere in Lakeland. Since the government started paying for it (under Medicare Part D) the price is anywhere from $80 to $120 – except at Wal-Mart where it’s about $24.

That’s the kind of craziness you find in America’s “free market,”  where big corporations are free to rip us off – with the complicity of a corrupted Congress.

Of course,  if he becomes President, Sanders can’t change society single-handed. Nobody can.

But even if he doesn’t get elected – even if he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination – he will have performed a great service this election season by raising public awareness of so many shameful inequities and abuses in America.

If enough of us get mad enough, we might run those thieves out of Congress – and send the lobbyists packing with them.

Click for the CAF’s report.


The Absurdity of Carly Fiorina

FiorinaCan somebody tell me the secret of Carly Fiorina’s appeal? This woman is a parody of the American Dream, mysteriously rising from secretary to CEO in the corporate world and ruining every corporation she got her hands on. It’s thanks to Fiorina that Lucent and Hewlett-Packard investors lost their shirts, for example. So now, this self acclaimed business genius wants to run America.

How can anyone take her seriously?

California voters certainly didn’t. She dumped millions of her own money into a run for the US Senate and flopped miserably. And she is polling barely above single digits among the most dismal flock of Republican presidential hopefuls in living memory.

Yet she has managed to bully her way on to the main stage in CNN’s Republican primary debate on September 16.

Why? Because the pundits insist she is “surging” in the polls. So she is placing third these days – after Donald Trump and Ben Carson. But with a field of 17 candidates, the poll numbers generally are very, very low and her “surge” is barely above the margin of error.

These TV talking heads are all agog at the wit and wisdom she displayed as a debater at “the kid’s table” in Cleveland. What did she say that was so witty and so wise?

Here is the quotation most often repeated by awe-struck commentators:

I didn’t get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t given money to the foundation or donated to his wife’s Senate campaign.

The whole world probably knows that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump spoke on the phone before Trump announced his candidacy. So I honestly don’t see anything remarkable in Fiorina’s comment. Do you?

According to one guy I heard on TV, 60-year-old Carly Fiorina is “a rock star.” No kidding. I bet even she had a good laugh at that one.

But she is indubitably a woman, and that’s a feather in the Republican Party’s cap, I suppose. So much for that “war on women” the party is accused of waging, right?

Not only that, but now they will have both a black man and a woman on the main stage for the next debate. Who says this isn’t the party of diversity?

As Abraham Lincoln said, I laugh because I must not cry.

Click for more on Carly Fiorina.

Click for more on the CNN debate.


A Really Big Reality Show

kanye reagan

I may be the only person in America who didn’t know who Kanye West was when he announced he would be running for President in 2020. I had to look him up. As it turns out, he is an entertainer. The Guardian newspaper describes him as a “rap superstar. ”

That explains why I’ve never heard of the guy. I don’t listen to rap music – not on purpose, anyway.

But a lot of people do. So many that Kanye West  is reportedly worth more than $130 million.

The notion of a rap superstar as leader of the free world seems bizarre to me. But I am obviously out of the loop. If Ronald Reagan of “Bedtime for Bonzo” could be president, why not a rapper named Kanye West? If Donald Trump can lead in the Republican primary polls, just about any celebrity is a viable candidate for the highest office in the land.

This is America after all. And in America, life’s a cabaret.

Many more people watch the Kardashians than Downton Abbey.  American Idol enthralls millions of viewers while 24-hour news channels  scramble to attract a few thousand.

In this society, any of the myriad celebrities who populate our TV screens – and, increasingly, social media –  could get elected to public office in a heartbeat.

Does this mean the American public is shallow and dumb?

Or are “we the people” smart enough to see through the political charade? Have we figured out that the politics game is just a reality show?

Candidates can promise to give us the moon when they become president but it’s Congress that makes federal laws. And Congress is a mess.

Then there are the state legislatures to contend with.  Not to mention the civil servants who actually get things done.

The BBC used to air a program called “Yes Minister,” which hillariously revealed how civil servants manipulate elected officials.  But that’s only half the story.

In America, there are lobbyists, representing various special interests. They often pull the strings while elected officials dance obediently like so many puppets. I understand that lobbyists actually write a lot of the legislation for the elected officials. Apparently, it’s the lobbyists who churn out those endless pages of arcane gobbledygook, and it’s the civil servants who “interpret” them.

Increasingly, politicians are actors and actresses, making speeches and raising campaign money while the lobbyists, legislative aides and civil servants do the grunt work that keeps the government running. Often, the elected representatives haven’t even read the legislation they’re voting on.

And I’m sure you’ve read or heard about civil servants who are treated to lavish parties and plied with sex, drugs and alcohol by those deep-pocketed lobbyists. Remember that scandal involving employees of the Minerals Management Service?

So why not Kanye West for President? Or Caitlin Jenner? Or… You fill in the blank …

Click for Kanye’s announcement.

Click for the Minerals Management Service scandal.

Click for a clip from “Yes Minister.”


Smoke and Mirrors



aliceWords no longer mean what I thought they meant. Especially during a political season. Especially during this political season.

I know, you are going to tell me that politics is all smoke and mirrors, that’s the way it has always been and that’s the way it will always be.

But if you tuned in to Sarah Palin interviewing Donald Trump the other day, you ventured into an even more bizarre exercise in jiggery-pokery than usual. You must have felt as if you had somehow stepped through Alice’s looking glass. You remember Alice? Then you may recall Humpty Dumpty’s famous quote:

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.

Neither Palin nor Trump actually said that, but they should have.

As for numbers? Why not just make those up as you go along?

I didn’t catch the show. I didn’t even know Sarah Palin has a new show. Indeed, inveterate browser though I am, I have never stumbled upon One America News, which broadcasts the program. But Salon. com filled me in this morning. And my head is still spinning at the thought of those two on the same stage.

Donald Trump and Sarah Palin together? Say goodbye to reality.

When Mr. Trump blithely claimed there are 93 million unemployed workers in America, for example, Ms. Palin smilingly went along with this obvious fantasy.  Of course, she probably has no idea that unemployment is actually at 5.3 percent, the lowest rate in years, which means about 8 million people out of work – not 93 million.

But you already know Donald Trump has no respect for reality. His picture of an America being overrun by hordes of illegal immigrants, bringing crime and pestilence to a pristine America is provably false, for example. He manufactured that “crisis” to launch his “platform.”

That’s what Donald Trump does best – makes up facts to support his rhetoric and jumbles them together in an incomprehensible morass designed to inspire confusion, outrage and fear.

As the article puts it:

Trump has inaugurated the era of inchoate blurting in presidential politics.

Actually, I think it was Sarah Palin who did the inaugurating. But Donald Trump has definitely perfected the art of inchoate blurting.

Click for the Salon story.

Click for Alice and Humpty Dumpty.